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Editorial : 15-year roadmap set by the fifth plenum

【明報專訊】The fifth plenary session of the Chinese Communist Party's 19th Central Committee wrapped up yesterday (October 29) in Beijing. The session has adopted the "CCP Central Committee's Proposals for the Formulation of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and the Long-Range Objectives Through the Year 2035". The full text of the proposals has yet to be issued but more details are expected at the press conference today (October 30) in Beijing. However, judging merely from the plenum communiqué released, one can see that the CCP has adopted a rather cautious view of the current situations of the country and the world. Therefore, the goals set for national economic and social development in the coming five years have carried a low-key and pragmatic tone while an unprecedentedly high level of importance has been placed on security development. In relation to national defence building, the document has proposed for the first time a target for the century-long endeavour of army building. An emphasis has even been put on the slogan of "military drills and war preparedness". As for the objectives for development in the coming 15 years, the vision remains ambitious and grand.

Every five years, China formulates a "Five-Year Plan for national economic and social development" and the one to be done next year will be the 14th of this kind. But the proposals passed by the fifth plenum this time also include a long-term plan of 15 years, covering the period from 2021 to 2035.

In the over-6,000-word communiqué, not a single word is dedicated to the Sino-US relationship. But reading between the lines, one can feel a sense of anxiety and preparedness for any eventualities arising from changes in the external environment caused by rivalry between the two countries. For example, the communiqué says China is still in an important period of strategic opportunity for development at present and for the foreseeable future, "but there are new developments in both opportunities and challenges". It says a "deep adjustment of comparative international powers" is happening now in the world, and "At the same time, the international environment has become increasingly complicated amid significantly higher instabilities and uncertainties."

On the basis of such judgement on the situation, the major goals set in the 14th Five-Year Plan as mentioned by the communiqué do not include any specific GDP targets. That is because in the face of high uncertainties of the pandemic-battered global economy, the uncertainty about the future economic growth of China has also significantly increased.

Quite unusually, the plenum communiqué discusses security and national defence at great length, stressing that "security development should be linked to all areas as well as the entire process of national development so as to guard against and iron out all kinds of risks that may affect the progress of our nation's modernisation". In relation to national defence and military modernisation, it has proposed "comprehensive enhancement of military drills and war preparedness, strengthening the strategic capabilities of defending national sovereignty, security and development interests, as well as ensuring the fulfilment of the target of the century-long endeavour of army building by 2027". It is the first time that a target of endeavour has been proposed to mark the 100th anniversary (2027) of the PLA's founding. Although the specific details concerned still have to be clarified, one may catch a glimpse of it from the goal of "making major strides in the modernisation of national defence and armed forces" as laid out in the 14th Five-Year Plan.

There is only one sentence about Taiwan in the communiqué — "advancing the peaceful development of cross-Strait relations and national reunification". However, the term "national reunification" was absent from the 13th Five-Year Plan five years ago, a sign that Beijing sees the situation of the Taiwan Strait grimly and there is an adjustment of focus in its policy towards Taiwan. As for Hong Kong and Macao, there is also only one related sentence — "maintaining lasting prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and Macao". We will have to wait for the release of the full text of the proposals for the concrete details.

明報社評2020.10.30:五中定調未來15年 兼顧發展安全風險

中共十九屆五中全會昨日在北京落幕,會議通過了《中共中央關於制定國民經濟和社會發展第十四個五年規劃和2035年遠景目標的建議》,該建議全文尚未公布,詳情在北京今日的新聞發布會上料有進一步的披露。僅從五中全會的會議公報可見,中共對當前世局國情的判斷較為審慎,因此,在今後5年的經濟社會規劃中所訂目標低調務實,將安全發展提高到前所未有的高度,對國防建設首度提出建軍百年奮鬥目標,甚至強調「練兵備戰」的口號,但對未來15年發展規劃目標仍然雄心勃勃。

中國每隔5年都要制定一次經濟與社會發展的「五年規劃」,明年將是第14個這類規劃。今次五中全會通過的建議中,還包括一個15年遠景規劃,時間跨度為2021至2035年。

五中全會的6000多字公報,對中美關係不置一詞,但字裏行間透露出對中美角力所致外部環境變化的憂患意識。例如會議認為,中國發展仍然處於重要戰略機遇期,「但機遇和挑戰都有新的發展變化」,當今世界「國際力量對比深刻調整」,「同時國際環境日趨複雜,不穩定性不確定性明顯增加」。

正是基於這樣的形勢判斷,公報中十四五規劃的主要目標,未提國內生產總值(GDP)具體指標,因為面對全球經濟在疫情衝擊下的高度不確定性,未來中國經濟增長的不明朗因素也大增。

公報以罕見的大篇幅論述安全與國防,強調「把安全發展貫穿國家發展各領域和全過程,防範和化解影響我國現代化進程的各種風險」。在國防和軍隊現代化方面,提出「全面加強練兵備戰,提高捍衛國家主權、安全、發展利益的戰略能力,確保2027年實現建軍百年奮鬥目標」。這是首次提出2027年建軍百年奮鬥目標,具體內容仍待釐清,但十四五規劃目標中有「國防和軍隊現代化邁出重大步伐」,可略見一斑。

公報中關於台灣的雖然只有一句話,「推進兩岸關係和平發展和祖國統一」,但「祖國統一」4個字,是5年前的十三五規劃中沒有的,反映了北京眼中台海局勢的嚴峻,以及對台政策的重心調整。至於港澳部分,亦只有「要保持香港、澳門長期繁榮穩定」一句,詳細內容,須待規劃建議全文公布才見真章。

■Glossary

生字

communiqué : an official statement or report, especially to newspapers

eventuality : sth that may possibly happen, especially sth unpleasant

rivalry : a state in which two people, companies, etc. are competing for the same thing

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